The Less Obvious Side to Becoming a Better Landscape Photographer
You’ve heard it before. Make sure you have a clean and simple composition. Shoot during the best light. Use high-quality gear that won’t hold you back. Learn to post-process like a fiend… there are some obvious fundamental skills and techniques when it comes to creating great landscape images. And with a quick Google search, anyone can dive into the “process” of becoming a better landscape photographer. But talk to any expert and they will give you a host of other unique variables that go into how they create art. For some, it is very personal. For others, it is almost systematic.
For me, it boils down to a few key things. Based on my experience shooting professionally and leading workshops for the past 10 years, here is a rundown of some of the most important, but less obvious factors that will enable you to become a better landscape photographer. Keep in mind that these ideas are not meant to replace the fundamentals, which are critical, but help to fill in the missing pieces that take you to the next level.
Be Quick On Your Feet
In a perfect world, you have all the time you need to slowly and carefully set-up a shot – taking great care to construct your composition. You then double and triple check all of your camera settings, add your filter holder and filters, cable release and make sure your tripod is completely stable and level. Before the light starts to get good, you have time to eat a snack and enjoy the scene. When the perfect moment happens all you have to do is push the button.
While I do find myself in that situation on occasion, the reality is that more often then not, I am much closer to complete and utter chaos versus calm serenity. Usually, I am driving way too fast, chasing light that I know will be gone in moments, or breathlessly sprinting up a hill, hoping I will make it in time. The tripod is set-up in an instant, technical decisions are made in seconds and if I have a chance to think about filters or cable release or anything extra… it’s a miracle. Being prepared and quick on your feet is absolutely essential. It’s either that or missing the shot. Which leads me into my next few points…
Shed the Excess & Keep Your Kit Light
I teach a ton of private and group workshops and continuously witness the ways gear can hold people back. For example, there are times when we are driving and chasing the light in an area like Norway that we pull-over for a quick stop to grab a shot – I could be out of the car, have my shot and be back in the driver’s seat before people even have gear out of their bag.
It can take people (often with huge kits & tons of lenses, bags bursting with the latest tech) minutes to decide and then find what gear they need. It takes them even longer to get their tripod out and set-up, figure out which lens and then add things like filter holders. The number of times the light is be gone by the time they are ready to take a photo is extremely high.
But there are plenty of ways to prevent these scenarios. I am a huge promotor of keeping your kit small and light to make things as easy as possible when it comes time to start shooting. Here is a very basic breakdown of what I recommend gear-wise to lighten the load...
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